The Correct Data Governance for Your Organization’s Culture

Mary Levins, the founder of Sierra Creek Consulting, said that if you pay attention to how many times conference speakers use the word “culture,” you’re going to be surprise. She was speaking at the DATAVERSITY® Enterprise Data World Conference about The Culture-Centric Approach to Data Governance. She and Cassie Elder, the owner of DataCraft Partners, both spoke at the event. They talked about how to build a successful Data Governance Program if you work in an organisation with a certain type of culture.

A lot of people say that we need to build a “culture of data governance.” Elder: “We’re going to turn that around and show you how to build Data Governance that fits with your culture,” he told the group.

Culture has a lot to do with how data is managed.

An economist who worked on the governance of the commons named Elinor Ostrom said that culture is very important when it comes to how people run things. Elder said this because Ostrom’s work was focus on the governance of the commons. Those who try to do Data Governance with tools and processes that don’t fit their company culture often don’t understand why they don’t work.

In Levins’ words, Data Governance is a Data Strategy that helps the Business Strategy. Businesses may want to make more money, cut down on risk, or improve customer service. “Data Governance is a Data Strategy that will help support those overall business goals.” Data Governance includes Data Quality, Data Standards Management, policies, procedures, and defining who is responsible for what.

Culture is made up of shared values, beliefs, norms, and behaviours.

Levins shared a quote from the book Execution with us: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy, CEO of GE, and Ram Charan: This book is about how to get things done. It’s impossible to plan a good strategy without taking into account how well the organisation can do it. This is because the ability to do so is link to shared values, beliefs, company norms, and behaviours. What you do in your organisation is call a “norm,” and what you do is what you believe.

Elder said that it has been hard for academics to figure out what culture is. Fish don’t know that they’re in water. Even though it’s a good idea to look for “shared values, beliefs, company norms, and behaviours” to figure out your company’s culture, it’s easier to ask, “How do we do things around here to be successful?” Organizational psychologist William Schneider came up with a simple and practical way to think about and show how groups work. Elder said they used this model for Data Governance because it was simple and easy to understand.

The stages of data governance

A person who talks about Data Governance says that there are three stages: Discovery, Operationalization, and Sustaining. Discovery is use to figure out where things are now, make sure Data Governance requirements are align with business goals, and get people to agree.

“The Operationalize phase is one of the most difficult parts of a Data Governance journey because that’s when you start to do things,” she said. Define critical data elements, design processes, and build Data Governance solutions to meet business goals that were identify in the Discovery phase. This is all part of Operationalize.

During this phase, “Data Governance is just part of how your company does business,” says the author. This phase includes measuring the results and figuring out what changes need to be made. All the way through the whole process, Levins said, “Culture really needs to be the main thing.”

How to Find the Core Values of an Organization

The first step is to look around. Places to look for signs of the company’s core culture are in its mission statement, in vision documents, and in posters put up by the Human Resources office. Because culture is set by the people in charge, pay attention to what the people in charge value and reward.

In a more formal way, surveys of staff and leadership, both past and present, can help figure out how the company is run. Recognize that there is a chance of a culture clash when businesses merge or buy each other. There are times when “Make sure that you have those conversations at your executive level, because you can’t drive that through your Data Governance programmes.”

Cultures: Cultivative, Collaboration, Control, and Competence are the four types of organisational cultures.
Levins said that even though most businesses have a core culture, there are often subcultures within that culture. For the presentation, Levins said, they would be focusing on the core culture for the whole company. Each culture has both good and bad things about it. Elder said, “Sometimes, the things we love about our partner also make us crazy.”

There is a lot to be said about cultivating: growth and development

Elder: Cultivative culture is about people and what could happen, he said. Is there anything we can do to make the future better? How can we improve people? Cultivative cultures are often find in religious groups, nonprofits, and businesses that work for social justice or “make the world a better place.” This type of culture is focus on personal growth, so it’s important for people to be promote from within. Teams are usually very different, and ideas are take into account from anyone on the team. Self-expression, empowerment, growth, and adaptability are things that are important. A Cultivative culture is one in which people ask, “What’s going to change today?” They don’t expect the same thing to happen.

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